Gritty to Pretty is back and its supporters are optimistic it will be another hit.
“Last year it was during the winter so the types of projects were things that could be done outdoors in winter. This year, we’re hoping to add colour and accents that weren’t popular in the last round of projects,” Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Ron Furlong said. “We’re thinking things like paint and flowerpots.”
Gritty to Pretty 2.0, as it’s being called locally, has already begun with the funded work required to be completed by the end of March. That being said, Amherst’s business development officer, Rebecca Taylor, said it’s important for businesses to act quickly because the pot is smaller this year.
“Grants are being issued as the applications come in and once the money’s gone it’s gone,” she said. “If we are fully subscribed at the end of August, that’s it.”
The inaugural program saw $25,000 made available and it went into projects such as a new LED sign at Mansour’s Men’s Wear, a new awning and sign at 30 Church Women’s Clothing, façade improvements to the Bright Beginnings Child Care Centre and a new awning, signage and windows at Focal Point Photography and Framing as well as new doors at Jones Family Funeral Centre and new windows at Archway Insurance.
In total, 10 projects were funded last year up to 50 per cent of the cost of renovations and alterations to a maximum of $5,000.
This year, the amount is $20,000 with a maximum of $4,000 per project.
“Last year was a big success,” Furlong said. “We generated $83,000 of improvements with a $25,000 investment. For every dollar we put in, the community put in three.”
Gritty to Pretty is for commercial properties only and it’s not just for the downtown core. Furlong said each project proposal is evaluated by the chamber as it arrives. There is an evaluation committee within the chamber of commerce that awards the funds to successful applicants.
Furlong said he knew of several projects that were in the application process.
The project is a partnership between Amherst, the chamber of commerce and Municipal Affairs through its Beautification and Streetscaping Program that totals $500,000 and aims to create more inviting public spaces for citizens and visitors alike.
For Taylor, it’s a program that will benefit not only the successful businesses, but the community as a whole.
“We’re getting more visitors coming to town because of the collaborative efforts of many and with more visitors coming we want to put on our best face,” Taylors said. “We’re especially interested in tourism-related and retail shops and accommodations that would be able to beautify their frontages to attract more businesses and create more Instagram worthy locations.”
Furlong said Gritty to Pretty 2.0 is an important program.
“We really do have a pretty community that anything we can do to fix the little spots is important,” he said. “The opportunity of the program was for the town to do things, but what the town has said is give it to the owners and let them take responsibility for their own façade.”
Amherst, Taylor said, has already done a lot with the help of ACOA to beautify the town, but now it wants to work with business owners themselves, through the chamber, to spruce up their own properties.
“We had a lot of ideas for projects, but because there were so many who wanted to do projects we decided to apply for the funding so they can do that work,” she said. “Businesses see their neighbours prettying up their property and they want to do the same. It’s contagious and it leads to a prettier community.”